Let’s face it – kayaks are not for everyone. Whether it’s the effort of squeezing yourself into that tight little cockpit, wriggling from side to side to prevent yourself tipping out, or just the sheer misery of cold water from paddles trickling down your sleeves, ‘skinny’ boats are not a pleasure for many of us. Rowing a sweet little dinghy, on the other hand, is a traditional pastime that still holds an attraction for leisure seekers of all ages. With the opportunities for hiring a genteel row boat few and far between, we’ve tracked down three of the best for you to enjoy this summer.
Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
Pop your bonnet or cap in your bag for this step-back-in-time treat on Pukekura Park’s iconic little lake. Fringed by mature tree ferns with fronds that sway gently in the breeze, and backed by the park’s elegant teahouse with its views over the water and out to Mount Taranaki/Egmont, the lake is an oasis of calm amidst the busy city. Before heading out in your sweet rowboat, you’ll want to pick up your ice-creams – 2 of them are included in the $8-half hour hire boat ticket. Once on the water, make your way to the picturesque red Poet’s Bridge – the history of which is worth knowing in advance. When a bridge was deemed necessary in the park, it was funded by a member of the then independent park board who financed it from a win at the races. And you guessed it – the horse’s name was ‘The Poet!’ The original bridge has since been replaced with one which is Japanese in style – but it still bears the same name!
Antigua Boatsheds, Christchurch
Trail your hands in the lukewarm water of the shallow Avon this summer, as you skim over the river on a rowboat from Antigua Boatsheds. The establishment dates back over 130 years and has survived two catastrophes. The first was a fire in 1907 when half the building and half of the 70-odd boats it housed were destroyed. Then, in 1986, just after the present owners had taken over the business from family, the boatshed was caught in the Christchurch earthquake. This time, only minor damage was received (to the shed’s deck) so the bilding survives to this day as one of the city’s historic places. Rowboats with space for 3 passengers are just $35 an hour to hire so why not book for 2 hours and take a picnic with you to enjoy under the river’s shady willows!
Up the creek, Brighton, Otago
The brackish Otakia Creek is oily smooth on a calm day, and up-stream the tidal zone is a haven for water birds (including spoonbills) – so be sure to pack your binoculars and identification booklet when you come for your rowboat outing. The hire boats, which will take you to places you can’t reach on foot, can be found beside the water and the camping ground in the quaint seaside village of Brighton just south of Dunedin on the coast road. When the present owner took over the more than 100-year-old boatshed, which had fallen into serious disrepair, his ambition was to give children of today the opportunity to experience a taste of what their parents and grandparents had enjoyed for decades – which is exactly what he’s achieved. Now folk of all ages venture onto the water, and journey back into a more peaceful age.